What if I told you there is a sure-fire way to add $5 trillion to the global economy through women entrepreneurs? A new analysis by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) shows that if women and men participated equally as entrepreneurs, global GDP could rise by 3% to 6%, boosting the global economy by $2.5 to $5 trillion. Supporting women entrepreneurs makes sound financial sense and will also help shift social norms to advance gender equality. Why, therefore, are we still so far from closing the entrepreneurship gender gap? Unleashing the power of women entrepreneurs through collaboration and partnerships between a range of key players, including non-profits and corporations, is absolutely critical to driving progress.
Despite the clear benefits of supporting women entrepreneurs to succeed, they are still consistently left behind and face significant barriers. To understand the entrepreneurship gender gap better, and the progress being made to close it, BCG analysed data from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) on a regional and country-by-country level. Across all regions, they discovered that the percentage of the male working age population starting a new business exceeds that of women in all except four countries—Vietnam, Mexico, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
To nurture this, the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women (the Foundation) set up programmes in three of these countries. In Vietnam and Indonesia we are specifically harnessing the power of technology through a partnership with Qualcomm® Wireless Reach, a strategic initiative that brings wireless technology to underserved communities globally.
Similar to trends around the world, women in Vietnam and Indonesia continue to experience barriers to accessing startup capital and need to navigate complicated economic factors to ensure their businesses continue to grow and not stagnate over time. Our own needs assessment determined that the key challenges faced by women entrepreneurs in Vietnam include a lack of information on market data; a lack of access to resources; and, a lack of access to credit.
In 2017 the Foundation reviewed the feasibility of a mobile value added service, such as an app, as a business enabler for women entrepreneurs in Vietnam. Although a majority of the women we spoke with had never used a mobile learning tool for their businesses, they felt strongly that it could help to address their challenges. These findings informed the design of our HerVenture micro-learning smart phone app.
HerVenture Vietnam aims to build the business skills of women entrepreneurs by providing them with an inexpensive means to receive practical guidance to develop the key knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to effectively navigate the start-up stage and move to the next level of business growth.
But because you can’t make impact in isolation, partnerships are key. HerVenture Vietnam is being rolled-out through a local partner called Women’s Initiative for Startups and Entrepreneurship (WISE) – a network of high profile startup ecosystem builders, supports women startup leaders. Working together, we’ve seen 3,000 downloads of our app and have secured high levels of user engagement. Of the users who provided feedback, 73% of women reported finding the app useful for their business and 91% reported they will apply the lessons they have learned to their businesses in the future.
The high level of engagement with HerVenture offers an early insight into the sustainability of the app and demonstrates the potential for apps to be scaled for wide and enduring impact. But scaling the use of the app requires the strategic expansion of partnership networks, for example with educational institutions, local coalitions and corporates.
Over the past year, the Foundation has begun working with a variety of stakeholders to disseminate the app to women’s unions, business associations and universities across Vietnam. We hope to continue to build on the momentum we‘ve achieved by partnering with universities to explore what opportunities there are to promote HerVenture across university entrepreneurship programmes, for instance through embedding the learning tool into different online platforms or currciulums.
Beyond partnering with local organisations, NGOs, educational institutions and corporates, much value could also be gained by intergrating HerVenture into local partners‘ existing programmes that support entrepreneurs. Their power of partnership lies not only in providing innovative learning tools like HerVenture to their members but also in the ability to promote and publicise entrepreneurship schemes widely to reach new audiences and networks of women.
Partnerships have always been at the heart of the Foundation‘s work and core to our success in reaching nearly 150,000 women over the last ten years.
If you’re interested to learn more about our work contact the Foundation today.